Songs for all fans
Metro Vocal Group are famous not only because they are an exceptional acappella group, but because the four members - all American nationals - can sing in Cantonese and Putonghua.
The group's founder, Eric Monson, says learning the language helps the group get to know more about Chinese culture.
Although they appreciate Chinese and Eastern-influenced music, this never makes singing in a second language easier. Monson finds Cantonese hard to pronounce, while Michael Lance, another group member, finds Putonghua harder. This is where their diction coach Yuki steps in.
In many instances, the Metro singers master their pronunciation so well that their fans talk to them in Chinese, assuming they are proficient speakers. Chances are they will just get four puzzled faces.
In harmony with Asia
Metro Vocal Group are based in Hong Kong. But it hasn't always been the case - the foursome began their singing career on cruise ships. They moved to Asia in 2002 and began performing in Japan. That is when they decided to stay in Asia. In 2008, they arrived in Hong Kong and worked at Hong Kong Disneyland. They once performed at the Miss Hong Kong Pageant as well as CCTV's internet spring festival gala, Downloading Happiness. Last year, they were signed by Sony Music.
Vocal percussionist Michael Lance explains the importance of breathing properly to the aspiring young singers
"Singing is just a form of extended speaking. Only you make it much more complicated by applying musical rules," says Eric Monson.
He explains that before we talk, we breathe in. Before we sing, we breathe in skilfully.
When singing, you should never breathe with your shoulders shrugged (to move your shoulders up as you move your head down). Imagine breathing air into your stomach and inflating it. The air breathed in should push downward, flattening your diaphragm downward as well.
Blending voices and creating a harmony, where all voices become one, is crucial for an acappella group. To succeed, all singers have to match their vowel sounds. By making the vowels sound the same, the way Italians pronounce them, they can create the best harmony.
Chasing the passion
Besides their performances, the group also conducts singing lessons. Those lessons range from the basics, such as correct breathing, to vocal techniques like singing and beat-boxing.
"We don't want to teach people only one song so that they can show off in front of their peers," Eric Monson says. "We want to teach those who really have a passion for singing."
Warm-up those chords
Warming up is important. Just like with sports, singers should be physically and mentally prepared before they perform.
The larynx, or the voice box, vibrates when we speak and sing. Similar to stretching limbs, singers have to loosen vocal muscles to execute precise pitch changes.
Yet warming up isn't just limited to the throat area. It also applies to our whole body if we want to deliver the perfect sound. Stretching our abdomen, back, neck and shoulders can allow our voice to be at its best.
Metro Vocal Group is about to release their debut Cantonese album. Stay tuned to www.metrovocalgroup.com/Home.html